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09/04/2019

How does one read “properly”?

QUESTION
How does one read “properly”?
So how do I start explaining this question? I am going to a class next year that will require me to analyze novels that we will read for class and I want to know how to do that properly. I am not the kind of person who sees “the bigger picture” of things when I read–meaning, that when I read, I take the words on the paper and stick with that. I never think of why a thing was written a certain way or what connection it has to world. But I don’t want to read like this any longer because I know that I am not getting the information out of a book that I am supposed to be getting. Like Neil Gaiman wrote in an introduction to Ray Bradbury’s: Farenheit 451, “if someone tells you about a book and tell you about it , then that is okay. But if they say that was ALL it was about, then they are wrong”(I paraphrased the hell out of that). But I really believe that what he says is true. If I can’t find a bigger reason of why a book was written, then it really is not worth my time reading it. I am also planning to be a writer, and I feel like if I don’t develop this skill– and soon– I will not have “good” stories to tell. I don’t have anything against people who don’t write “bigger picture” stories, but I want my stories to be more meaningful than what is just written on the page. Ending with that, I think my real question is how does one analyze literature?

I guess it would also help if I said I am going into my Junior year of high school and I was thinking about joining my school’s newspaper club. *Please, no cruel and nonsensical responses. I want your honest and heartfelt opinions about this!

ANSWER
I think your teacher will show you the ropes, unless you’re starting some MFA program and which case you should already know how to do a literary analysis of a novel. Or will you be doing literary critiques? there’s a difference. what I did, was I searched online for “literary analysis” and “literary critiques” in order to understand the definitions first. And then I looked up some examples for books and read those essay papers to try to get a full understanding. It’s not easy and one is way harder than the other because you’re trying to figure out what the author meant by certain things, even if it’s the author just repeating a word (some authors do this on purpose to make a point or bring it to the reader’s attention).

Take what I say with a grain of salt. Research is your best bet, but I also think your teacher will help you out and get you started at the beginning of the semester. Back when I was in college (and also in high school) the teacher would have us read sections of the novel at a time and each week we’d have a class discussion and analyzed the text and what the author meant and everything you’re trying to figure out. I’m not saying all professors are this way, but if it’s a basic literature class then you’re teacher will be there to help you with it. When you get into the upper level classes and the master’s program then that’s when you need to know this stuff going in.

Good luck!